With the calendar officially flipped to March, we are under two months away from the start of the 2022 NFL Draft.
A lot can change between now and April 28, especially with free agency still to come later this month. But several prospects have already seemingly solidified their spots toward the top of the draft, even without any on-field workouts yet.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah believes there are two perfect fits for the Giants, who currently hold the fifth and seventh overall picks. However, whether or not either player will still be available when the Giants are on the clock remains to be seen.
"I would say (Aidan) Hutchinson and (Ikem) Ekwonu would be the two that I would just run the card in…" Jeremiah said on Big Blue Kickoff Live regarding no-brainer picks for the Giants. "(Evan) Neal wouldn't be for me. He's my fifth overall player, so I wouldn't hate that pick at all. But to me, I just think those top two guys are no-brainers. I think you just plug-and-play them, and off you go….
"I don't think they'll be there. We'll see. It's a long time between now and then. Teams have free agency to address other needs and see what happens. But I just think they're high-floor and high-ceiling guys, which are hard to find."
In Jeremiah's most recent rankings of the Top 50 draft prospects, Hutchinson and Ekwonu came in at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, so it would hardly be a surprise if neither is available for the Giants with the fifth pick. Although he mentioned Neal as another possibility for the Giants, Jeremiah believes there is a "pretty significant" drop-off between Neal, his fifth-ranked prospect, and the next OT in his rankings (Trevor Penning at No. 23).
While addressing the offensive line will certainly be a priority for the Giants this off-season, Jeremiah does not think you need to use first-round picks in order to build a strong unit up front.
"I just like to remind people that you can build your football team outside of the first round, and offensive line has been a great example of that," NFL Network's top draft analyst said. "You just watch the Super Bowl and see a team that won the Super Bowl without dedicating one of their first-round picks to the offensive line. You have free agency, you have trades, you've got good players you can get Day 2, which I love. Second- or third-round type guys. You can build a very functional offensive line."
Outside of their two top seven picks, the Giants hold seven other selections in the 2022 NFL Draft, including four in Rounds 2-4. They own their own second and third-round picks, along with the Miami Dolphins' third-round pick and Chicago Bears' fourth-round pick.
There are numerous ways for a team to improve their offensive line. Considering the talent at the edge rusher position in this year's draft, Jeremiah believes the Giants would be better off using one of their first two picks on a pass rusher, before selecting some offensive linemen beyond the first day of the draft.
"I think Bernhard Raimann is someone that's interesting out of Central Michigan as a tackle," Jeremiah said as a possible fit for the Giants in the second round. "I thought he had a chance to maybe even go in the middle of the first round. I thought his Senior Bowl was a little bit up and down, I think he took on maybe a little bit of water there. I think he'll test well this week, which will help him. But he's one I could see conceivably being there at the top of the second round. To me, probably more towards the middle or back end of the second round, a guy that's intriguing is a guy like Max Mitchell from Louisiana. He's another one that was down there at the Senior Bowl. He would be somebody that would be a nice fit there at that point of time.
"Then interior guys, you get into the third/fourth round… (Luke) Goedeke is Bernhard Raimann's teammate there at Central Michigan. I think he probably slots in around there. I love Luke Fortner. I think he'll be gone, from Kentucky, he'll probably go in the second round. Zion Johnson is a second-round guy… (Jamaree) Salyer is an interesting one because you have this kind of undersized tackle who's going to kick inside to guard. He's real strong. I think fourth round is probably about where I'd have him in the mix. I'm maybe not as high on him as some others, but he's a solid player."
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah released his final edition of the top 50 prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.
If the Giants target an edge rusher with one of their first two picks, Kayvon Thibodeaux is a name that could be intriguing, if he's still available.
Playing in 10 games as a junior this past season, Thibodeaux had seven sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles. He received an 83.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, including an elite 91.5 pass rush grade, and was named First-Team All-Pac-12 and unanimous All-American. It was the second consecutive season in which he was selected as First-Team All-Pac-12. He was also the recipient of the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12's best defensive lineman in 2020.
Jeremiah notes Thibodeaux's "explosiveness and quickness" as reasons why he is considered one of the top prospects in the draft class, but does acknowledge the pass rusher's "inconsistency" during his time at Oregon.
Two other edge defenders the draft analyst believes the Giants will do plenty of research on are Georgia's Travon Walker, whom he connected to the Giants in his most recent mock draft, and Florida State's Jermaine Johnson II.
"They're both going to test off the charts, but Travon Walker is a better athlete," said Jeremiah. "He's more fluid, he's more loose. Both of those guys are going to go in the top 10. I think the Giants have to do their homework on both of those kids."
Depending on what happens in the time leading up to the draft, cornerback could wind up being another position the Giants target early in the draft. Although there is some debate between draft experts as to who should be the first corner off the board, Jeremiah thinks the choice is an easy one.
Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner did not allow a single touchdown during his three seasons at Cincinnati. He registered overall PFF grades of 88.0 (2019), 77.5 (2020) and 87.1 (2021) while recording three interceptions each year. Gardner made First-Team All-AAC all three seasons he played for the Bearcats, and in 2021 was named AAC Defensive Player of the Year along with Consensus All-American.
After allowing just 131 yards in 14 games this past season, Gardner proved he is likely the top press corner in the 2022 draft, which has Jeremiah excited about his future.
"I'm a big Sauce Gardner fan," the draft analyst said on BBKL. "To me, finding long, loose corners, they're hard to find. He can play the ball. Much has been made of the fact that he didn't give up a touchdown, but to me… he plays with a stinger. He definitely has a little edge to him. If you look at the best corners in the history, they all have a little edge to them. This guy has that."
View photos from Media Day as some of the top WR, TE, and QB prospects speak to reporters from the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.